County citizens win battle over ‘639’ prefix
California telecommunications giant Pacific Bell and little Nevada County came to terms Thursday on an issue that’s been a thorn in the side of Big Oak Valley residents for years.
“They’ve agreed to change the exchange boundary to correspond with the county line, meaning if you live in the Big Oak Valley you won’t have to pay long distance tolls to Grass Valley, Nevada City or Penn Valley,” said County Counsel Charles McKee.
For years, residents living in and around the Big Oak Valley complained to Pac Bell because they couldn’t call their county neighbors without incurring long distance charges.
The majority of the valley is located in the southwestern corner of Nevada County. A small portion crosses the Yuba County line.
Nevada County residents of the valley stuck with the 639 Yuba/Sutter County prefix were ringing up phone bills close to $100 a month for calls to Grass Valley, Nevada City, Penn Valley, and in some cases, to a neighbor across the street.
Pac Bell, McKee said, has finally agreed to make the Big Oak Valley part of the Grass Valley exchange.
“We won, we got what we asked for,” said Big Oak Valley resident Sherry Balow, who’s been a pain in Pac Bell’s neck for years.
Balow said she’s been fighting the telephone company ever since she got her first phone 14 years ago and realized she was connected to Yuba County.
After getting the run-around from Pac Bell, Balow took her complaint to the California Public Utilities Commission. “They said I had to get local government behind me,” Balow said.
After attempts by residents to work out the issue informally with Pac Bell failed, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors stepped in.
In November 2001, Fourth District Supervisor Elizabeth Martin asked the board to approve a resolution affirming Big Oak Valley as part of Nevada County’s zone of economic influence.
The resolution included a request that Pac Bell review its toll center filing for Nevada County subscribers with 639 prefixes.
After Pac Bell turned down the board’s request, the county filed a complaint with the CPUC in June.
The CPUC then agreed to come to Nevada County to review the complaint and hear residents’ concerns.
Thursday’s agreement came on the heels of two public hearings held in Penn Valley Wednesday, where residents voiced their concerns and made their gripes known to a CPUC administrative law judge and a panel of Pac Bell representatives.
“If so many people hadn’t showed up, Pac Bell wouldn’t have folded,” Balow said. “I’m excited, but it really was a community effort.”
Before all was said and done, McKee said the county has to file a motion with the CPUC by Dec. 18 asking for confirmation of the agreement with Pac Bell.
The CPUC will then hand down a final ruling.
“Pac Bell is asking for six to nine months following the CPUC ruling to make the change,” McKee said.
McKee called the agreement with Pac Bell a big victory.
“The people of the Big Oak Valley did a lot of work to get this done, and they should be proud of what it accomplished,” McKee said.
Though Thursday’s agreement was a long time in coming, Balow commended the county for sticking with it.
“I’m just glad that, ultimately, the county stayed with it and found a legal remedy,” Balow said.
“In a year, we should have this resolved.”
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